Dickens and his Lawyers: by Paul Howcroft (1976)

Dickens and His Lawyers book cover

The life and works of Charles Dickens were permeated by lawyers and the legal system. As a boy, he endured his father’s imprisonment for debt. At 17, he became a solictors’ clerk. At 19, he became a court reporter and later a parliamentary reporter. As a successful author, he engaged in litigation to protect his copyright and campaigned for law reform. He had numerous friends and acquaintances in the legal world and, near the end of his life, had a son who chose to follow a career at the bar. Most of his novels have legal themes and lawyers that are usually portrayed with Dickens’ dark and ironic humour.

Dickens’ personal involvement and fictional creations within the legal world are drawn together and put into context by an author who has spent a career practicing as a lawyer in central London. He brings an in-depth knowledge and experience of a legal world that still reflects the one known to Dickens. This includes its lawyers, clerks, judges, courts, offices and ancient inns of court. This book is partly a biography and partly a study of the Victorian legal world based on the many descriptive extracts from the novels. The legal characters are examined in detail with extensive quoted passages, providing an entertaining anthology and a useful work of reference.